• Chamber Of Horrors



    Released by: Kino Studio Classics
    Released on: March 21st, 2017.
    Director: Norman Lee
    Cast: Lilli Palmer, Leslie Banks, Gina Malo, Romilly Lunge,
    Aubrey Mallalieu, J.H. Roberts
    Year: 1940
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    The Movie:

    Norman Lee’s 1940 film Chamber Of Horrors might sound like a horror picture given the title and all, but it’s actually a fairly standard mystery/potboiler, one that happens to be based on the story The Door With Seven Looks (which is the title the film played under in its native England), penned by Edgar Wallace.

    The film begins with Lord Selford (Aubrey Mallalieu) on his death bed, declaring before he passes on that his vast fortune shall be willed to his son John. The man shuffles of this mortal coil and is buried with some of his prized jewels. In his absence are left seven keys, each one able to open one of the different doors on quirky old Selford’s tomb!

    Years pass and June Lansdowne (Lilli Palmer) gets a letter in the mail from Silva (J.H. Roberts) as well as one of the aforementioned keys. Her presence is requested at once as a matter of great urgency and so soon enough, she arrives at Silva’s nursing home. Here Silva tells her a story from his past, how he was involved in a nefarious plot involving the different doors and their keys, but before he can finish the story an assassin strikes and Silva is shot dead. When Silva’s body disappears June contacts the local authorities. Enter Scotland Yard Inspector Dick Martin (Romilly Lunge), a man who was just set to retire until he set his sights on pretty Ms. Lansdowne. At this point, he’s happy to take on one last case before moving on to greener pastures.

    Eventually they wind up getting in touch with Selfrod’s barrister, Edward Havelock (David Horne). As it turns out, Havelock informs June that she’s the beneficiary of the entire estate, but then there’s the matter of the other six keys, six of which are completely missing. Before it’s all over June’s roommate wil get involved, as well Selford’s doctor, the torture-happy Dr. Manetta (Leslie Banks)… and his wacky pet monkey!

    This one takes a little while to get going but once Manetta is introduced the pace picks up considerably and the story tosses in some more macabre elements. Given that the good doctor’s hobby includes collecting historical artifacts – specifically instruments of torture dating back to the Spanish inquisition! – and that he not only keeps a monkey for a pet but has also reconstructed an actual torture chamber, he’s definitely the most interesting character in the movie. Banks plays this part well, infusing his character with enough sinister intent to keep him fun to watch but never going so far over the top as the land in self-parody. The rest of the cast are alright, Lilli Palmer sure is pretty, but Banks basically owns the movie and whenever he’s not around, the picture suffers a bit for it.

    While the twists (and there are a few of them) may seem quaint and even predictable by modern standards, the movie benefits from some decent cinematography and great set decoration. The score is a bit hokey but effective enough and if this won’t keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, the picture is at least a moderately atmospheric ninety minutes worth of entertainment.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Chamber Of Horrors arrives on a 25GB Blu-ray disc framed at 1.37.1, which appears to be the picture’s original aspect ratio. The black and white image shows its age in the form of minor to moderate print damage, the occasional frame jump and a bit of shudder in the image. Detail surpasses what DVD would be able to provide but this isn’t a reference quality picture not because of the authoring (there are no noticeable issues with any digital manipulation) but because clearly the elements for this older and fairly obscure picture were in less than ideal shape. It’s watchable enough, just keep your expectations in check.

    The only audio option here is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track which is true to source. As such, there’s some occasionally muffled dialogue, a few drop outs, and a bit of hiss here and there. None of these issues are all that serious but they are there. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary track featuring film historian David Del Valle and filmmaker Kenneth J. Hall. This isn’t a track that is jam packed with historical insight as it doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot of information out there about this one, but the two men offer up their thoughts on the movie as it plays out. They make some interesting observations about the effectiveness of certain scenes, point out when and where some other early horror pictures could have influenced this one, make some notes about the performances and the score and give some welcome background information on Edgar Wallace and his ‘involvement’ in the film.

    Aside from that there are bonus trailers White Zombie, The Black Sleep. The Undying Monster and Donovan’s Brain as well as some static menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Chamber Of Horrors takes a little too long for its own good to really get moving, but to the film’s credit the performances are fun and the climax pays off rather well. Pacing issues aside, this is entertaining enough. Kino’s presentation is a bit rough around the edge due to the elements that were available but the commentary included on the disc is a welcome addition to the release.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















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